Seeds Sown to Grow Urban Farming Education in NYC

January 5, 2011 at 2:39 am Leave a comment

Aspiring urban farmers may soon be able to learn the farming skills they need without ever having to leave the city.  This month a New York City-based farm school offering instruction in sustainable agriculture will open its doors to its first 20 students.  Farm School NYC — the effort of food advocacy group Just Food and an alliance of local horticultural and food justice organizations — will offer a two-year certificate program that covers everything from growing techniques to marketing and community organizing.

“The mission of the school is to provide comprehensive professional training in urban agriculture, while spurring positive local action on issues of food access and social, economic and racial justice,” said Just Food in a press release.

Getting into the school or a class won’t be easy.  Just Food received more than 200 applications for the 20 spots available, said Eric Thomann, co-interim director of Farm School NYC.  The school, which has 15 slots for certificate students and five for non-certificate students, is open to adults of all educational backgrounds and income levels.

Future urban farmers need not despair.  Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn will also introduce an urban farming program in 2011.  The college will have a full-fledged farm on its 70-acre Manhattan Beach campus that will be planted by student volunteers this spring.  Dr. Stuart Schulman, the Kingsborough professor in charge of the program, expects to have a formal curriculum developed by fall 2011.

Kingsborough students will be able to take farming classes as an elective.  And non-matriculated students might get a chance to work on the farm and learn about farming in the future, possibly through a continuing education program.

One school — John Bowne High School in Flushing, Queens — has been educating students about agriculture long before farming became fashionable. The school’s agriculture program dates back to 1917.  The John Bowne Aggies — as students of the school are known — work on a four-acre farm that in addition to an orchard and field crops includes a poultry house, animal barn and greenhouse.

Years ago, John Bowne had an adult education program that made it possible for the public to take farming classes, said Steve Perry, assistant principal of the school’s agriculture program.  But the program ended.

Any chance the school might bring it back?

“I wish we could,” said Perry, a wistfulness creeping into his voice.  “There’s no allotment for it in the budget.”

Entry filed under: City Farmers, Local Food Production, Urban Agriculture. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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